Sunday, January 9, 2011

Can't Fix Crazy. Can't understand it Either

So this lunatic tried to assassinate Gabrielle Giffords. He shot her at point blank range in the back of the head, surprisingly leaving her alive though in critical condition. (Historical digression: probably the same type of wound that killed Abraham Lincoln. A phrase that sticks in my head: "When Doctor Leale probed the wound in Lincoln's thickened scalp, feeling for the bullet, he dislodged a blood clot, and Lincoln began to breathe again." Lincoln didn't die until 5:30 the next morning. Modern medical techniques would have undoubtedly saved him.)

Anyway, the usual blowhards are up and running. Dick Durbin, on CNN's State of the Union referred to the Palin map that listed Giffords as a target: "[sic] a sign of 'toxic rhetoric' that had gone too far" though he insisted he wasn't making a 'direct connection' between Palin and Saturday's shootings. Whatever you say, Dick.

Unfortunate though the map was, it is not the issue here. It annoys me and I think it was in incredibly bad taste but it wasn't the trigger.

Jared Lee Loughner is crazy. Crazy like the kids who shot up Columbine. Crazy like Manson who thought he was starting an apocalyptic race war. Crazy like Sam Berkowitz who figured his dog was telling him to kill people. Crazy like the Arabs who drove planes into buildings.

You can't understand crazy. Crazy means "cannot be understood." As humans, we need understanding so we tend to react to these senseless acts by lashing out, by making connections just as fragile as those the killers made, by overreacting, by passing laws in the heat of the moment that we regret deeply when the ardor cools.

After Manson called himself "Helter Skelter", did we ban the Beatles? No.

After Son of Sam, did we blame dogs? No. Well except for those two little old ladies walking down the street and one says to the other, "I KNEW that dog was evil."

After Columbine, we panicked and insisted on metal detectors and no black trenchcoats and talking to all kids as if they were potential mass-murderers. We instituted no-tolerance rules and suspended kids for carrying nail clippers. We blamed the NRA and violent video games and politicians and teachers who didn't pay attention. We blamed because we had no idea what else to do.

Remember John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy? Thousands of people worked on that case, from the Warren Commission to a computer security expert 50 years later. It still isn't settled for many people. There were people on the grassy knoll, shadows under the bridge, Zapruder film re-watchers who still can't deal with the killing, the "magic bullet" theory and it's debunkers.

Because we wanted reasons. We couldn't, and we can't, deal with death for no apparent reason. Random, senseless violence scares us stupid.

I wish the best for Rep. Giffords and I feel a tremendous sense of sorrow for the victims who didn't make it and for the injured who will carry this for the rest of their lives.

Jared Lee Loughner is the sole person responsible here. He would have gone off if Palin had said nothing. He would have gone off if Rush Limbaugh had a cheeseburger. He would have gone off if Nancy Pelosi had gotten up on the wrong side of the bed. He would have gone off if Obama and both chambers had passed gas, never mind the Health Care bill.

It drives us crazy, too. As I'm sure you've all seen, commenters on every news outlet on the web are losing their minds. The comments are not helpful to the conversation, but it may allow us to work through our fear.

"The shooter was a liberal pot smoking communist manifesto reading hippy."
"Republicans w/ their comments are murderers !!!"
were the most recent 3 out of 7,250 comments on one story on Yahoo!News. The rest were just as lunatic.

I hope we all heal soon.


  1. Loughner shot them and is responsible. No disagreement there. But we have no way of knowing if he would have gone off had Palin said nothing. And I am not sure that that map is not one of the issues.

  2. The map has been around for quite some time now. If it really was triggering anything, I think we would have seen a lot more than just one nutball. Since we've only seen this one, I'd have to say that if it was inciting anything it had a very small influence.

    Also, the more we learn of this guy, the less it seems that he was operating from the Palin viewpoint or following any kind of GOP gameplan. I can't really ascribe any merit to the Palin-done-it complaint at this time.

    This isn't like that website that directly called for the killing of abortion doctors and then put big red Xs through their faces when they'd been shot.

  3. Separate the map from Loughner and the shooting, it's still a problem.

    This map shows some casually inflammatory thinking. Red X's? No. But getting pretty damn close. I didn't choose the gun imagery, and neither did you. And I wouldn't have.